Why are there no plus size male models? Here's the untold truth
While the prevalence of plus size models have increased, there seems to be no plus size male models on the catwalks, or at fashion week.
In March 2016, IMG Models signed Zach Miko as their first-ever plus size male model. And the fashion industry and media quickly heralded it as a turning point. At six foot six and with a 42-inch waist, Miko seemed to bring a breath of fresh air to a field dominated by men that are either impossibly waifish or super stacked.
And with models such as Ashley Graham making their impact felt, it seemed only right that men’s fashion finally had a male equivalent. Big changes were afoot.
However, several years later there is still a distinct lack of male plus-size models.
Why are there no plus size male models?
Despite claims of progress, Miko is the only plus size (or brawn) model listed on IMG's talent portfolio. And Ford Models, Storm Model Management and Next Models NYC have none on their websites. Given that the average US man has a waist size 38 to 40, are men being left out of the equation in the age of body positivity?
The "London Fashion Week Men’s" opened in January 2018. It was lauded by organisers as: "A celebration of discovery and the creative diversity that has made London an international hub for menswear."
Hundreds of male models took to the catwalk over three days. But, diversity of shape and size was distinctly lacking.
That said, Rottingdean Baazar did break the mould by featuring a number of plus size male models. One even wore a "We Do Big Sizes" shirt.
But it’s not only in ‘high’ fashion that this is an issue. While movements such as #effyourbeautystandards have pressured high-street retailers to adjust their presentation of female bodies, the same has not happened for men.
To take one example, Nordstrom’s ‘Big and Tall’ range, which caters for taller men with larger waist sizes - a category Zach Miko fits into perfectly - still uses images of men with perfectly chiselled abs, to sell its clothes. And this lack of representation has not gone unnoticed by the public.
Some modelling agencies are spearheading change
That’s not to say there aren’t some exceptions, however. Bridge Models are a London-based modelling agency specialising in curvy models. And in 2016 they launched the UK’s first men’s division for bigger models:
"We felt it was time for men to be equally represented in the fashion industry. The body positivity moment has seen some great achievements over the last decade. But it seemed hypocritical to promote diversity and not include men in that discussion,” Charlotte Griffiths, their director, told Four Nine.
Griffiths also brought attention to the crucial role of brawn models in promoting a healthy body image, particularly for the everyday consumer:
“With the rise in body dysmorphia issues in young boys we need to be ahead of the curve and show that men come in all shapes and sizes. The 21st Century Man wants to experiment with fashion and would like to have more options on the high street that fit well and suit a variety of styles.”
The term "plus size" is also divisive
However, from this comes the question of what actually constitutes a “plus size” male model. The term is already contentious, with many arguing that it creates an unnecessary distinction between “normal” and “large”.
Looking at many of the men on Bridge’s books, you’d be hard-pressed to call most of them ‘large’. However, the agency explains on their website that part of their remit is not only to represent the 'XXL' body-type, but also to cover the ‘gap’ between the catwalk and larger plus size.
The bottom line
So, can we expect to see more plus size male models in the future? There has already been a shift, as ASOS and boohooMAN do employ brawn models on their websites.
And British model Brett Morse told the BBC that he believes things are heading the right way:
"I’ve only been involved really for a year and already it’s increasing month of month. I’m getting a lot of work, but also there’s a lot more models already.”
The shift towards real-size models in both men’s and women’s fashion is long overdue. But given that we rarely see male plus size models during fashion week, and the fact that most of us - let’s be honest - probably can't name a single one, it’s evident that though times may be changing, they’re probably not changing quickly enough.